Lending and Learning

This weekend was a chance to help. Myself. Saturday was all about carving a pumpkin to make me happy. Sunday was walking 5 miles for Baystate’s Rays of Hope Breast Cancer Charity Walk then having good girl time (as opposed to bad?)…

I am making a vow to walk the Rays of Hope every year. I may not walk as part of a team again (too much pressure to want to stay together), but I will definitely make this an annual thing. I will never, ever call attention to myself for the hurts I have faced but I am proud of the healing just the same. This walk was just what I needed. Maybe a certain someone will want to join me next year (what do you say, Smiley?)… So, anyway, this is a picture of me waiting for the rest of the team to arrive. I sat on my car and watched the others roll in. I won’t admit to how ridiculously early I really was, but it gave me a chance to watch walkers unite, hug, cry. Out came the pink ribbons, the pink balloons, the pink hats, the pink face paint (yes, yours truly smudged hers within moments of application), pink pink pink. Everywhere. I own so much black I actually had to go out and buy the pink shirt in the pic!

This was a day of coming together for the cause. Coming together period. I didn’t think of anything me, myself or moi. I wore no name except for that of my Team. I was not one person but an army of ones walking. I think that’s what knocked me silly on this Sunday. Running, you run for yourself. You lose the crowd. Everyone spreads out and becomes their own warrior. Walking binds you to the footsteps in front of you. Makes you move as a group. We were pretty in pink, proud in pink, perfect in pink.

S~ Thanks for hanging out later. While we didn’t talk about this walk all that much, it was nice to have that gabby, girly time. After the day I just had, it was perfect.

Look You in the Eye

So small

I had a funny thoughtquestion yesterday. It came out of someone else acting tougher than need be. When is it okay to say you need? When is it okay to lean on someone else for support even though you know damn well you can do it all by yourself? If my father had his way for my life he wouldn’t have wanted me to need anyone for anything. “Figure it out for yourself” he would have said. Be tough, be strong. Be blahblahblah.
I have this friend. This amazing friend who I sometimes complain to, bitch to, vent to, rant to. She listens with every fiber of her being and then tells me what I already know. I need her in my life to keep me sane. I may think I’m having an insane moment; a very insane moment, but she’ll reel me back in and tell me what’s logical about my lunacy. I don’t need her yet I do.
I have this husband. This wise-azz, smart, sensible husband who I sometimes whine to, cry to. I ask him permission to buy spooky signs, giant pumpkins and haunted villages. I need him in my life to keep my budget grounded. I may think I can afford every ghost, cat, witch and skull that comes along but he’ll reel me back in and tell me what’s illogical about my yearnings. He tells me what I already know. I don’t need him yet I do.
I have this life. This funny, crazy, vulnerable life which I sometimes think isn’t worth bothering with. I see black clouds and glass-half-empties all the time and often I find myself asking what’s the point? It’s then that I realize I need this life just the way it is, just the way it turned out. I can look you in the eye and say it. I need you.

You Are My Sunshine

There comes a time when you have to let down your guard. Relax. You have to give up the devices that keep you from being your true self, such as you really are. Really. There comes a time when I can no longer understand you as you think you are. I cannot pretend. Yes, you with the ego so fragile you have to come across as bragging and boisterous. I really do not understand your lack of humility or modesty. Is it a game?Why do you have to let everyone know you think you are the greatest? Do you need to yell to drown out the doubting voices in your head? Always looking to make sure you were heard, you were noticed. Looking for the compliment, begging for the praise. What a good dog. Please don’t. I’m begging you. Don’t. Your constant jokes. Your constant need to be smart. Pathetic. Please relax. You are loved the way you are. Really.

Same Old Song

Funny. I wrote this on October 5th, 2006. Listen to it as October 10th 2008 and ask yourself – what, if anything, has changed?

We will rise before the sun and face the day with the thought that today will be different from the day before. Much different. We will look towards coffee as the great motivator but really, in our heart of hearts, it will be the open road. We will stop for alcohol and then when we can drive no more, stop for the sea. When we reach the ocean we will know we can go no further. We will ride the waves and smell the salt. I can’t speak for her but I will breathe. Breathe in and out. Breathe like I haven’t in days. We will spot my mother and gossip all the way up the hill. We will finally drop our bags in sighing relief and a great sense of freedom. We will call our husbands while drinking wine and staring out over the ocean. Distracted. What we won’t do is talk about work because we promised. We will (try to) keep that promise. For love and sanity, we will.

I came across this…as I was packing. How perfect is that? Nothing has changed. I could have written this yesterday. Or next year. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Something From Yesterday

Advantage for the Taking

Someone unexpected lifted me out of my self-imposed anger today. I had been walking about with this you done me Wrong attitude and she turned it into a Right. Not only unexpected but downright heart stopping shocking. I had written her off a long time ago. Suddenly, I am seeing the faint lines of forgiveness coming through the hate. Am I mad?
I hate being lied to and this lie was self-indulgent and stupid. I could have handled the truth but something chose to make it worse by putting my heart in the mix. The smokescreen was as ridiculous as the lie. Could I not see through it? I couldn’t help but vent. After all, I am allergic to smoke. A sort of blood letting for the hurt, so to speak. The kicker is that I chose to spew my frustration to someone who used to produce just as much irritation as I was trying to release. I couldn’t help it and to make matters worse, there was no stopping me once I got going…you know how it is.
Surprise of all surprises, my rant was met with calm. Understanding. Even a solution of sorts. I couldn’t help but laugh, feel a litte silly. Just how old am I anyway? So, there we are: the barnacle, the newbee, the about face and me. Go figure.

Diaries of Jane Somers

Lessing, Doris. The Diaries of Jane Somers: The Diary of a Good Neighbour and If the Old Could… New York: Vintage, 1984.

Here’s what I find fascinating about Doris Lessing – she wanted to publish something pseudonymously. She chose the name Jane Somers, wrote in a completely different voice and then submitted  The Diaries of a Good Neighbour. Her own publishers turned her down. One publisher (who accepted the Somers work) was reminded of Doris Lessing! Can you imagine writing with such personal style that its recognizable without an author name attached? Even after you try to hide your true voice? That, to me, is real fame in the world of writing!

The Diaries of Jane Somers is comprised of two emotional, very telling, sad novels, The Diary of a Good Neighbour and If the Old Could…. In The Diary of a Good Neighbour Jane befriends an elderly woman. What I find fascinating about this story is Jane herself. She is middle-aged, has no children, and is a highly successful, fashionable editor of a woman’s magazine. She comes across as unfeeling and snobbish. She barely mourns the loss of her husband to cancer, is decidedly cold about the death of her mother by the same disease, and is completely disconnected from her sister. With no real friends of her own she even shuns her elderly neighbor desperate for companionship. Oddly enough, Jane meets Maudie, a dirty, ferociously proud woman in her 90’s and instantly feels a connection. The Diary of a Good Neighbour not only details the two women and their remarkable friendship but voices what it means to be vulnerable, to have shame, and, to grow old in a society that prides itself on youthful appearances, vitality and independence.
If the Old Could…is a continuation of Jane’s story. Told several years after the death of Maudie (sorry, but you knew she couldn’t live forever, right?) Jane falls in love with a married man. This time her selflessness is poured into helping her nieces as well as finding what it means to truly hurt over another person.

Favorite lines: “She was literally inarticulate with anger” (p 59). This scene is like a chapter out of my own life. Not that my sister and I have ever had the conversation tied to this statement, but I could picture us having it.
“…I don’t know what children are, and I’m not entitled to say a word, because of my selfish childishness…” (p 62).
“Meanwhile I rage with sorrow” (79). Isn’t this just great? Some people imagine sorrow being this quiet, slow-moving, thick and heavy emotion yet Lessing turns it into this live-wire, powerfully explosive, loud and in your face emotion with one word, rage.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Aging” (p 17). Very appropriate.

Sarah’s Challenge

See Sarah Smile!

See Sarah Smile!

This is my friend Sarah. We started off as coworkers. Even though she has moved onto bigger and better things we have remained friends. She has a huge smile and an even bigger heart. Here’s the proof: she walking a full freakin’ marathon for charity – yup 26.2 miles in one day. Here’s her story:

You are a charity walking machine, but this is your biggest yet! What made you sign on?  

 Last year I walked the half marathon and I loved it. Even though i was sore for a few days afterwards. I asked my dad to participate with me this year and he really wanted us to walk the whole marathon. I knew I couldn’t get a better walking partner than my dad (who has RUN many marathons) so i agreed to walk the full 26.2 miles!

How are you training for it, besides one foot in front of the other?

My ideas for training started with a book, and a set schedule but I struggled to get into it. Yesterday I walked 6.2 miles, and i am feeling it. my plan is to walk at least twice during the week for 3 miles or more, and then do my long walks on the weekend. my long walks will be 10, 13, 18 and 21 miles. In September I will start to shorten the mileage to get ready for the event.

When and where does this HUGE walk take place?

This is the part that hooked me both last year and this year. The walk is the Boston Marathon route. I have watched my dad run this marathon so its an honor to be able to experience this with him. Especially since neither of us our in running condition to do the real marathon. This is the next best thing.

This is something I asked our friend Rebecca: most athletes I know have a ritual or lucky talisman – something that inspires them before the event. What’s yours?

The things that inspire me most at these events are the volunteers and the photos that remind of us we are participating. The marathon has a mile marker with a photo of a child who is battling cancer. Those kids are fighting for their life, all i have to do is keep walking.

Here’s another question I asked Rebecca: Are you walking in anyones honor or memory, and if so, what is his/her story?

i am not walking for one particular person but for the general cause. I am amazed at the courage of anyone that goes thru cancer. To be honest, I am scared of someone I love or myself having to go thru something like that. I admire the strength of those who have cancer, their loved ones, and the people in the medical field who try to beat the odds and get them through it.

I’m not trying to guilt anyone but if walking a marathon and asking for your help in donating can help the fight against cancer then it is the least I can do. It is what I’d hope someone would do for me or someone I loved.

Speaking of donations, how much $$ do you have to raise?
my dad and i need to raise $250 each.

How can people donate?
my website is http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/sb08

my dad’s site is http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/bb

if you can donate that would be awesome. no amount is too small.

To learn more about you or the walk where can people go?

if you do not want to donate online, email me and we’ll figure something else out

my email is sburke81@yahoo.com

And when is that walk again??

September 21st

Regularly Scheduled Rant

This is what I should have posted:

I don’t out and out ask for assistance all that often. I don’t always spell it out and say Help. Me. But, those close to me know when I am searching for support, hunting for help. In so many words I asked and in so many ways they answered. Such was last night.
For reasons unknown I have been feeling silent and still. Like a pond with hardly a ripple. I wanted a wave of life and laughter to wash over me and lift me out of a self-induced torpor. Let’s go out I told my go-to girls. Where? They were surprised when I told them. It’s not like me to not have a plan. It’s not like to me to not know what I’m getting myself into. They only knew I needed their support and they answered the call. Wish we had a rally song because I would be humming it now.

Pouring rain. Little sleep. Too much wine. A borrowed car. Running late. Leaving early. None of it mattered. We converged on Jill like a hurricane and ordered vodka, chocolate, and chilies. We rolled our eyes at the cliches and silently cheered on the gold. Smoke and strobes.  Run songs ruined. When the time came my friends rallied around me like a fortress. Not letting a single thing hurt me or help me lose control. When I said I was done I didn’t know it until I was surrounded by support.

Now it’s the morning after. I’m hearing Sublime. I’m hearing something about bitches. Sublime bitches? You betcha. Thanks, ladies.

All Plans Have Changed

I wanted to write about spending time with my good, good friend. How we ran together (only 3.5mi but still…), rolled our eyes at family issues (pass me the bottle), caught the Closer bug together…
I wanted to write about how two great people stepped up and came out with me Friday night. I don’t ask for help very often and my requests aren’t always clear, but they answered the call despite weather and wine and one way streets.
I wanted to write about this one particular house we saw yesterday. It’s the perfect marriage of funky and functional (read = moi & kisa). Dare I say perfect?
I wanted to write my apologies for playing phone tag with two very special people. I am sorry I keep missing the ring so much it becomes rang. Don’t ever think I don’t need you.

Instead, I have cancer on the brain. When I got the call I went cold. “Make her some Natalie cds” my mother urged. “You know, the soothing stuff…” She went onto to say things like, “you won’t recognize her… administering her own chemo…needed to be on Monhegan… metal rods because her bones are so brittle… the whole family is here…” After a little while I stopped listening. All I could hear was my heart pounding & breaking. I kept thinking too young. Too fukcing young. When will this disease go after the sour grapes? When will it turn away from the angels on earth and settle a cold eye somewhere else?

I think it goes without saying that all plans have changed.

All is Vanity

Schwarz, Christina. All is Vanity. New York: Doubleday, 2002.

This book cracked me up. It’s the story of a friendship between two women and how friendships can be taken advantage of. Margaret is a New York City woman (displaced from California) who gave up her teaching career to write a novel. She has subtle hubris (described as “cynical roilings” p138. ) that she tries to disguise to Letty and anyone else who listens to her (mainly her husband, Ted). Letty is Margaret’s childhood friend who became (Poor Letty!) a stay-at-home mom with four kids and a great kitchen in Los Angeles, California. They keep in touch via email and almost immediately I noticed that between the two friends, despite Margaret being the one trying to write a book, Letty is the better writer. I love Letty’s writing, but I think that’s the point. It’s only a matter of time before Margaret starts using Letty as the subject of her first book. When Letty’s life starts to spiral out of control Margaret does nothing to help thinking it helps her own fictional plot.

Funny line: “Also, as a preteen, I half believed I could do anything, as long as I set my mind to it, but was never actually willing to set my mind to anything that threatened to take up a good portion of the rest of my life” (p 12).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Women’s Friendships” (p 247). Pearl calls this book “delightful” and I would have to agree! It’s a really fun read!

Culture Crisis

Fly High

I don’t know how to say this. Well, I don’t know how to say this without coming off as a cultural snob, but there is no refinery in my life right now. I wanted to see two nights of Natalie at the symphony. I was willing to pay someone’s way just to have a second night w-i-t-h someone (and not just sharing a table and maybe a bottle of wine with a complete stranger). Call me generous but my motives were selfish. Call me selfish but I would have paid the way. The whole way. The problem was I couldn’t think of a single person who would sit through orchestral music. No offense, but I’m having a culture crisis.

I need people in my life who want to look at art from the back of the room. The kind of person who not only sits and stares at art, but collects it as well. Cherishes it rather than chucks it. Someone who doesn’t get their wall decore from A.C. Moore. I want to know people who hear a cello live and call it an experience to remember. Music that moves them beyond screaming teenage fantasies. I desire people who would rather savor their food than chew, choke and swallow it. Can close their eyes and say, “cilantro…with a hint of lime” rather than, “there’s something funky with this rice…”

Show me someone who reads poetry, watches documentaries, understands fresh basil, and can handle a song without words. Show me someone who reads biographies, goes to the theater, knows a good Alfredo sauce, and hears the protest in folk music. Show me because I’m tired of Cosmopolitan magazine, Dumb & Dumber, dried oregano, and Hannah Montana.

*Edited to add: When I voiced this angst rather than post it, a friend took me to the theater. Another friend said, “I’ll go with ya!” I guess all I had to do was ask. I don’t know if that would have worked for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but now I know…It doesn’t hurt to ask!*

For Smiley with thanks!

When it comes to friendship age has no consequence. Color has no connection. Gender shouldn’t be a guiding factor. These are the rules I try to live by when it comes to friends. Simple as that.

Last Friday such a friend came to East Greenbush, N.Y. with me. It was a reckless adventure. No real address. Didn’t know what to expect. No real plan other than to hear great music. We had 90 minutes there and back to talktalktalk and believe me, we did. When we got to the restaurant it looked as though we had found Funky town. Weird mix of bikers, bouncy houses and a bizarre cover band. Definitely not what I bargained for. With a shrug we went inside the restaurant to eat. Clean eating be damned, I was sick of salads and ordered a bad burger and lemonade – unheard of for me. Sometime later I realized we hadn’t seen or heard the music we came for. Confused I sent a text to a friend. A knowledgeable, computer-ready, cool friend who looked up where we were supposed to be…right where we were sitting. How bizarre. Thanks, Bri. Even though you confirmed our confused state, you rock.

In the end we found our music and figured it all out. It was an adventure to remember. We met cool people, heard great music – the music we came for, saw five towns worth of fireworks, and decided “fireworks are a lot like parades…a lot of anticipation with little payoff.” Despite all that, I was glad she was with me for the adventure. Doing this trip alone would have tapped my ability to unhinge my security of self. So, thanks.

ps~ S~ this is the pic that made me think of you…how could I NOT take a pic?!

Sunglasses at Night

fish beach

This is not the blog that was scheduled to leave my mind today. Like a security escorted entourage this one took precedence and took over. I want to stop a moment and thank someone for seeing me so clearly from so many miles away. She wrote a blog that punctured through everything I have been feeling. It’s as if she had been a ghost in my kitchen, hovering over the conversations kisa & I had, but hearing my heart instead.
I am not afraid of change. I am the girl who took charge without knowing the challenge. I’m the girl who said yes to upheaval just to have something different. Hell, I even hacked off 9″ of hair this weekend. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, to imagine my life as something someone else can predict means I’m not living up to my potential.
Here’s what scares me. I’m in the crossroads of what next? Should I stay or should I go? Right now, I am unfocused, drifting, shoreless. No direction home. I don’t like planning for something without a game plan. I don’t like the potential for powerless. Here’s an idea: Imagine not knowing which people (if any) will be in your life a year from now. Does it make a difference to you? The same could be said for my sanity.

Maybe it’s the fact I am dressed in black today, ready to mourn the loss of someone’s mother. Maybe it’s the fact I’m in uncharactistically high heels and do not look anything like myself (and it’s not just the haircut). Maybe it’s the weather (what a cold and rainy day) and apathy has set in.

So, I thank my friend for getting it, getting me, and getting to the point. I may be standing on the platform in Indecision City, but I know someone out there has my direction home.

Numbers Don’t Matter


Last Saturday I spent $30 to walk with a friend around a park. 6.2 miles. Seems kind of odd when you look at it that way, but that’s the way it was. I wasn’t there to run in a race and I didn’t think of it as a charity event, even though it was both of those things. Smiley said she was walking by herself and I said that couldn’t be. I wouldn’t let it be and I didn’t. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. It turned out to be a beautiful day to talk and walk, walk and talk. It was worth $30. Even better than we didn’t come in dead last.
Last night I got on the gerbil’s wheel and wanted to go nowhere. Not really sure what I was doing except giving in to the guilt. I couldn’t remember the last time I ran. As soon as I started to move I knew I was in trouble. Every song irritated me and I felt tired even moving 11.7 mph. This was going to suck was all I kept saying to myself. I don’t know how I know it but I always know a suck run. I recognize it long before it actually gets to me. Know those commercials about the love/hate relationships with running? I was on the other side of love with this run. It sucked.
But, here’s the beautiful thing. Despite wanting to get the fukc off and quit, despite wanting to make a mad dash to the bathroom and puke, despite my ears revolting against every song ipod could spit out, I did not quit. I did not stop. I kicked it up to a 11 mph run and for 40 long minutes I thought about counting up the demons. I determined I have more than one for every day. I listened for subliminal run songs (Rob Thomas, “I’m running but you’re getting away”). I fast forwarded through the likes of Norah Jones, Corrine Bailey Rae, Billie Holiday and Jewel. Rewound Metalica, AC/DC, Def L, Aersosmith, even Led Z. Confronted the pain of a MotherMe lost. In the end it was 3.64 miles. 3.64 miles further than I thought I could go. But, like the numbers of the walk on Saturday, they don’t matter.

Kermit is My CoPilot

After the run with KermitSometimes I think I appreciate my friends more than I tell them. I love them more I let on. That I know. Today I went shopping with such a friend. She’s the one who loads my arms up with the “try this on” stuff because, as she puts it, “it just might work.” She’s right about most everything. I never did tell her that the fur coat pinched my pits, but she’s right – it was funky. I could have spent all afternoon trying on the suggestions of a friend. I didn’t have one fat moment.
I tell you this because she convinced me I needed Kermit. Kermit, Aerosmith and a sexy dress with sunset colors. But, the bigger news is later that day I ran with Kermit. 5.34 miles in an hour. Yup. One freaking hour. I ran to random and found myself laughing at the more ridiculous moments of the week. One hour is a long time to think about sh!t on a treadmill, especially when you settle in and run at the same pace. With Kermit’s help I came to several conclusions. The best being this: My friend is right. No one, I repeat, no one tells me how to conduct my marriage. No one tells me what is or isn’t appropriate. I’ll let my husband be the judge of what he would or wouldn’t appreciate. I was stupid to be upset. I was stupid to care what someone else thought. Especially that kind of someone.

So, to my friend. Thank you for kicking my mental butt.

14 days until Darfur.